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X-Men: Apocalypse – I loved it!

I saw “X-Men: Apocalypse” at the movies yesterday and loved it. Before going for the movie I had a headache; by the time I came out I was a cured man. :)

I feel conscious saying I enjoyed “X-Men: Apocalypse” because most reviews I chanced upon seem to hate it. They don’t like its villain, or the themes, the continuity with other X-Men movies, it’s plot, etc – but I liked it, and probably for these same reasons really (except the continuity mess-up).

It was such a relief watching “X-Men: Apocalypse” after all these complicated superhero movies like “Batman vs. Superman” or “Captain America: Civil War”. None of this heroes fighting heroes stuff – particularly for not much reason – none of this gray area-ness or questions of right & wrong and morals and whatnot. Just a simple straight-forward good vs bad superhero movie – wow, I missed those!

Most superhero movies try to be dark and realistic nowadays, inspired by “The Dark Knight”. I loved “The Dark Knight” – probably my favorite super hero movie of all – but that too was more or less clear in terms of sides. Batman was good, Joker was bad, but Joker’s reasons for being bad was the cool deal as was the way he went about being bad. But there was no question in your head of choosing sides or any other issues. Simple.

I wish “X-Men: Apocalypse” didn’t bring in Wolverine to confuse the timeline, but apart from that niggle it was good. I guess the best way to ignore that niggle is to ignore the Wolverine movies altogether – which is easily done as the two Wolverine movies have not much continuity between them anyways!

I liked the villain Apocalypse. There have been comments of him focusing too much on dressing up or not being menacing enough – that didn’t bother me much. Yes he was dressed all grandly, but he’s from the Egyptian civilization era and they were grandly dressed back then so that’s just how he is. He was not menacing enough – I don’t know, I enjoyed watching him. The plot made sense to me as did what Apocalypse wanted. The ending was a bit of a we-need-to-destroy-him-somehow-so-the-movie-can-conclude, but that’s fine too – we get to see Phoenix and her introduction makes sense with the ending.

I enjoyed the opening sequence that introduced Apocalypse. I enjoyed the title credits. I enjoyed QuickSilver and his amazing sequence. I enjoyed most of the plot. Professor Xavier going bald didn’t make sense :) but then what the heck, he had to go bald eventually and this seemed like a good place. I enjoyed Jean the subtle hint/ reference to Phoenix (without saying the name but just through the imagery). The amount of destruction in the end was a bit over the top and and repetitive (like every other mass destruction movie sequence you have seen), but you can’t call a movie Apocalypse and not have some apocalyptic stuff happening.

So yeah – that’s it I guess. I loved “X-Men: Apocalypse”. A simple old-fashioned superhero movie. Good heroes vs Bad villains. No other drama. :)

Broadchurch

Binge watched “Broadchurch” Season 1 last year. Loved it! It was a brilliant show about the impact of a little boy’s murder on a small town and how it unravels everyone’s lives and exposes secrets. Not just the plot but the mood, the music, the cinematography, the actors – it was all very well put together. 

Binge watched the US remake “Gracepoint” last week. It was good for a US show but not that great compared to the original (I always feel the darker British shows are better than American ones). They stretched the plot a bit but the characters and the mood was good. The ending was a letdown though. An unnecessary and illogical twist just to make this show appear different? That was a letdown. 

This week I binge watched “Broadchurch” Season 2. Was a but apprehensive coz WikiPedia it didn’t have much favorable reviews and I really didn’t want to spoil my memories of the first season, but all those worries were unfounded. “Broadchurch” Season 2 is equally great! Different from the first one but a great and sensible follow-up to the events of the first Season, with another murder mystery thrown in at the side. “Broadchurch” is never about the murder mystery anyways – in both seasons the case is solved because someone confesses – it’s always about the impact on everyone else and the revulsion at what happened. 

Don’t approach “Broadchurch” Season 2 expecting similar plot lines as the first one. Season 2 is similar but different. 

Two other good shows I enjoyed this year but didn’t get a chance to mention are “Fortitude” and “Ascension”. Check these out if you haven’t already!

Update: I liked this quote by Paul Coates in Season 2 Episode 7 (it’s from 2 Corinthians 12:8-10):

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Uttama Villain – nice!

Note:

Following post is about the Tamil movie “Uttama Villain”. 

I wouldn’t call “Uttama Villain” a must watch, but if you are into comedy-dramas and like the sort of philosophical movies Kamal Hassan’s mind cooks up then it’s a must watch! It’s not for everyone as it’s not a typical commercial movie; at the same time it’s not dry either. Think “Inception” but less special effects and a but more viewer involvement required. 

The movie has layers. And it plays upon comparing and contrasting these layers. Each layer is good on its own but the movie is about the whole picture. It’s like having a “gajjar ka halwa / gulab jamun – ice cream” combination. The sum is larger than the parts. 

To begin with: the title itself isn’t what you would expect it to be. I thought “Uttama Villain” meant “Ideal Villain” – I expected “Uttama” to be the trait, such as in “Uttama Purushan” (“Ideal Man”), and “Villain” to be the English word. But that’s not correct. “Villain” is actually “Archer” – it is from the word “Vill” (“Arrow”), as in “Ambum Villum” (“Bow and Arrow”), and “Uttama” is simply a name “Uttama” short for “Uttaman”. Hence the title really is “Uttaman the Archer”. 

That said once you watch the movie I think the title has a double meaning. I think the misleading title “Ideal Villain” (which makes you think this is some action flick) isn’t entirely misleading; in a sense the movie is also about the ideal villain – death (and it’s counter part immortality) as well as Kamal Hassan’s character (Manoranjan the actor) who is a villain (sort of: supposedly dumped the girl he loved, broke off with his mentor director, unhappy family relationships, extra marital affairs) but by the end everyone loves him. 

I am not really explaining it well here because I can’t find the right words and partly because I am still processing it. This is one of those movies which you watch again just to enjoy and glean the subtleties. 

At one level “Uttama Villain” is about a dying actor who realizes he has screwed it up. He is popular in public thanks to his commercial, movies but he knows that that doesn’t mean anything of substance. Once he dies people who’ll forget him. He is just a fad, hollow, there’s nothing of worth in his life. Added to that he discovers he had abandoned the woman he loved and their daughter (whom he wasn’t aware of). His family relationships aren’t going great. And he has broken off and is fighting with his mentor whose movies had initially made him famous. All said and done not a good life, and one that’s ending soon. 

On that level he is a villain (a bad character). As with villains they have a great public life but a sucky private life. Not loved by anyone. And easily replaced by the next villain that will come along. 

On this level he too has a villain – death. The perfect villain. He wants to beat that by achieving immortality. You can’t do that in the physical sense of course, but you can be immortal in the sense that there are people who love you and will miss you after your death. Making amends in his personal life will help that. And in his public/ work life he could make a movie of substance for which people will remember him even after he is long gone. 

Now we get to the next level (it’s a parallel level really). This is the movie Kamal Hassan the actor (his name’s Manoranjan, I should just start calling him that) wants to make. This is a comedy – he wants to go out making everyone laughing. This movie is also called “Uttama Villain” – in the second meaning of the title, “Uttaman the Archer”. 

On paper this inner movie is simple. Uttaman is an actor (not an archer!). He practices a form of the Kerala theyyam dance form (also known as kaliyattam) fused with Tamil koothattu. The movie begins with Uttaman enacting the story of Arjuna and Shiva – where Arjuna is asking Shiva for the pashupati astra. (This is the sense in which Uttaman is an archer). The play breaks up when some incidents happen, and through a series of incidents after that everyone begins to think Uttaman is immortal. (Notice the juxtaposition – a dying Manoranjan playing an immortal Uttaman – while trying to attain immortality in a different sense himself). 

At the same time there’s a king – who became king through treachery (akin to how Manoranjan became popular) – and is expected to die according to his astrologers). He wants to become immortal and gets Uttaman to his court so he can learn the secret of immortality from him. In a sense this king – the villain of this story – is a personification of the villain element in Manoranjan, while Uttaman is the idealness that Manoranjan aspires to be. Eventually the idealness wins over the villainness (by the end of the story) when Uttaman kills the king. 

This story also has a princess – daughter of the previous king – whom the villain king wants to marry. She hates the king and is thus imprisoned. She helps Uttaman appear immortal (by helping him escape from a tiger) and aids him in defeating the king. I see her as a personification of Manoranjan’s daughter. She hates him (the villain side of him) but eventually starts to love him after she sees how much he loved her mother but was tricked (which plays along with Uttaman starting to love the princess and she liking him in return). 

In addition to these two levels the climax has a third story which was really cool. That really blew me away! In this one Uttaman tells the king he needs to make a play to attain immortality – sort of how Manoranjan is making a movie to attain a different sort of immortality. The play is about Hiranyakashyapu – an interesting choice coz (a) he is immortal and (b) the story is usually told from Prahalad’s point of view. In this story Uttaman is supposed to play Narasimham and the king Hiranyakashyapu, and in the finale Uttaman would kill the king with his poisoned claws. In a change of plans however, the king decides to play Narasimham as that character has no dialogues and is the one that doesn’t die, so Uttaman ends up being Hiranyakashyapu and likely to end up really dead because of the poisoned claws. But in a turn of events the king (Narasimham) ends up scratching himself and dying with Uttaman (Hiranyakashyapu) surviving. This is a twist on the real story of Hiranyakashyapu and Narasimham but it works well here coz in this context Evil has died and Good has triumphed. And Uttaman escapes unharmed – once again he seems to be immortal – and the movie of Uttaman turns out to well (the director and everyone else likes it) implying Manoranjan will be immortal, while in reality he dies. 

I liked how the climax chose the Hiranyakashyapu story. I can’t place a finger on why I liked it very much just that it feels very “meta” and I like how it is twisted around. It is in line with everything else in the movie – a layer within a layer, meta of a meta. 

One part didn’t make much sense to me though. Once Uttaman kills the king it is revealed that he is the neighboring kingdom’s king. That doesn’t make much sense to me, especially considering how Uttaman was introduced and also because it seemed like a waste of time going to this lengths just to kill the king. It probably has some meta significance that I am not getting. 

That’s all for now. Check out “Uttama Villain” if you think you like such movies. 

Update: Came across this blog post that goes into further detail about the plot and the movie within the movie. A must read!

Update 2: A special mention to the music by Mohammad Ghibran. I read somewhere that he took a year and half to come up with the music. Am not surprised! It is very well done and the music, lyrics, and singing are a huge part of the movie.

Thoughts on BBC One’s “The Missing”

The Missing is an interesting show. It’s one of those things that pull you in while watching, and while the ending may not make sense or might even let you down, you still keep thinking over the show and its characters. 

I started watching The Missing because of James Nesbitt. I stayed on because I liked the plot. It was slow, but every now and then the writers would drop something to feed your interest and keep you hooked for the next episode (where again the plot would slowly meander along). I suppose I could say I am a fan of slow shows, but that won’t be correct either, I think. Many a times I had a good mind to quit The Missing and just go over to Wikipedia to read what happens. But I held on because something attracted me to it. Maybe it’s Nesbitt’s performance, maybe it’s the writing. The plot is slow, but not painfully slow. The characters are sad, but not painfully sad (as one might say of Sarah Lunden of The Killing, which is similarly slow but I gave up after three seasons and was glad when they cancelled it). 

Yes, I think it’s the writing on The Missing that definitely had me hooked. The way the episodes were written and directed, it pulled you in to the plot so that while it was slow you were still hooked on to the plot and curious about what’s happening. And each episode was an exercise in slowly inching towards the truth. In each episode the characters (mainly James Nesbitt and Tchéky Karyo) uncovering a clue, come across roadblocks, and just when all hope seems to be lost there’s a glimmer of hope which leads them to the next clue/ episode. And these aren’t just random clues. They are sensible and well placed, so you stick on with the show. 

Interestingly it was the father of the missing boy who is more worried and “crazy” in this show, while the mother though sad manages to cope with it and make an effort to move ahead with her life. I didn’t expect that. In the first episode when the boy wen’t missing, I assumed it would be the mother who’d have difficulty and hence break up the marriage. Again, good writing. Sensible stuff. 

The ending is what put me off and also dragged me into the show. Not the ending of the mystery where they discover what “supposedly” happened to the boy, but the mystery surrounding that ending. That was superbly taken. For one, when the boy’s dead body was shown to the mayor, we the audience too never see it. So we are trapped in the mind of the parents – inquisitive just like them to know what happened to the boy – but unable to verify for themselves/ ourselves on whether the dead body was really of the boy. And therein the writers are kind of treating us like the father and mother I think. Some of us will be like the mother and find peace with the ending, telling ourselves that it was indeed the boy so we now have some sort of closure. But the rest of us will be like the father, unsure about the ending – and tearing ourselves apart in the process – because we haven’t seen the body! And to top it up there’s the final ending where the father is now in Russia and there’s a picture of the stick figure the boy draws, and we are left with no closure as to whether the boy drawing it was the son or just some random kid. We are trapped in the father’s mind-frame with no closure for ourselves, haunted with the thought that perhaps the boy is still alive! I love that.

The Missing really isn’t about a boy missing. It’s about the things missing in everyone’s life (including the viewers) after the experience. Missing closure. Missing life because of being trapped in the prison. Missing peace. 

If I remember correctly ever since the boy went missing, every year his father had been on some clue hunt or the other. Most of them ended up in a false alarm, but this latest one led to an end. The question now – and rightly so – is whether he should just leave it at that, or keep digging to answer all his questions? After all if he had just left things as they were, he would have never discovered what really happened to his son. So isn’t he justified in digging further and ignoring everyone else in his pursuit to satisfy any other doubts he may have? And especially since that stick figure drawing was on that window in Russia – surely it must mean something?

See how I am trapped in the father’s mind now. That’s what I said – excellent writing! “It’s the slow knife that cuts the deepest” (via Dark Knight Rises) – so apt here! It’s the slow episodes that have actually cut deepest into my mind. 

Anyone else noticed that James Nesbitt and Jason Flemyng have both played characters of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde? The former in the TV show Jekyll, the latter in the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And in this show one’s the ex-husband, the other’s the new husband. Heh!

If you ask me whether I’d watch The Missing again, I’d probably not. Do I love the show a lot? Sure, yes! I think it’s a great show. Many viewers seem to compare it to Broadchurch and prefer this over the latter. I don’t know if I’d choose one over the other – in my mind you can’t compare the two. Broadchurch was faster paced, but still a slow show and about something else altogether – how a murder ripples through a small community and nearly everyone seems to be a suspect (again, smart writing!). If I were given a choice between watching one over the other I’d take Broadchurch – mainly because it was more murder mystery, less other stuff, and also because it was slightly faster. But that’s not to say The Missing is better than Broadchurch, or vice versa. 

But I’d take Fargo over all these shows! Again, a different beast altogether, but boy do I love Fargo! I loved the writing, and I loved all the characters – esp. the really evil Billy Bob Thornton character, and the deeply evil Martin Freeman character. Nice!!

East meets West – a great documentary

Saw the first part of an amazing eye opening documentary today – East meets West. Learnt a bit about Islam and its spread in the process. Like I said, it was an eye opener!

I didn’t know, for instance, that in its initial years (centuries?) Islam was quite an “open” religion. In the sense that when it took over Christian countries like Damascus, Jerusalem, etc it didn’t convert all the citizens to Muslims nor did it demolish/ convert all the churches to mosques. Instead both religions flourished side by side. That’s just amazing!

Moreover Islam encouraged science and didn’t view scientific pursuit as being against religion. This was particularly poignant considering I had recently read a book about science and religion in India (Ganesha in the dashboard) which talks a lot about how religion views science in opposition to it. I don’t know how Islam views this now but it was good to know back then science was encouraged. Islam considers the world a work of God and science the way mankind can appreciate the beauty of God’s handiwork. So you are not really going against God by trying to understand how things work, you are merely appreciating it. That makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it?

I also loved the fact that Islam promoted “madrasas” (open schools?) where anyone from the street could just walk into lectures being held by professors on various topics. If you liked it, stay on, else you are free to leave or attend one from a different professor. Islam was big on learning and asking questions. They translated all the Greek and similar works to Arabic. And places Baghdad (which when I hear of now I think war and unrest and Saddam) were the centres of learning and progress. There were plenty of madrasas and libraries all throughout the various Islamic cities. In a way all these reminded me of the Internet of nowadays where there’s a lot of democratization of knowledge – open lectures and freedom to choose what you want, a place where it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor or what your background is, as long as you like to learn and want to make a difference you can! Good stuff…

It’s a four part documentary. Go check it out if you are interested in such stuff.

Gotham

I started watching Gotham expecting to be let down by it. Everyone had great reviews about it based on the trailer and pilot, but I figured that was all just hype. After all what could a TV series about Gotham and Jim Gordon really bring to the table? Batman’s the big deal, and Jim Gordon and all the villains are important, but come on – a TV show just about these!? – will that work?

Boy, was I mistaken! Gotham is awesome. I was hooked from the start itself. It gets Bruce Wayne’s parents murder out of the way right at the beginning and then moves on the Jim Gordon and the cesspool that is Gotham. It reminds me of the Batman comics like “The Long Halloween” which is about the Gotham criminal enterprise as Italian mafia and has a dark noir feel to it. Gotham has a similar feel though not too dark noir. And it mixes it all up with how corrupt everyone in the city is, and how Jim Gordon is an honest cop trying to make his way there being badgered by all sides and losing hope but not quite losing it, and it has future Batman villains like the Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Riddler, and so on strewn through out. And these villains are portrayed wonderfully! The Penguin, for instance, is amazing – evil! – and Catwoman is great, played with the right balance of good vs bad. The Riddler and Poison Ivy don’t have much screen time yet.

Apart from the usual mafia families such as the Falconi and Maroni there is a new character – Fish Mooney – who is so evilly played by Jada Pinkett Smith. I mean she is evil. The character has a strong personality and that’s someone you just don’t want to cross with. And Jada Pinkett Smith brings out all these qualities so well, it’s just a pleasure to watch her and be awed by Fish Mooney.

I am also impressed at how Bruce Wayne isn’t sidelined among all this adult stuff. He is very much in the show and every episode has him developing his character and offering more insights to his self. Am glad about that.

Three episodes down so far! Fourth one was out yesterday, yet to watch it.

[Aside] Netflix and Adam Sandler

Netflix signs Adam Sandler for a four movie deal. The world hates it. I don’t see why…

I love Adam Sandler. I think is a common man hero. His characters are just regular people, no flashy antics or hero stuff. Most of his movies have simple plots too, albeit weird at times. But I enjoy them!

The other day I saw “Blended” starring him and Drew Barrymore. The movie started slow and the plot is contrived but I loved it. The idea was good and down to the earth. And I liked Adam Sandler’s character.

I am happy Netflix is doing this. Hope Adam Sandler makes more movies!

The Dark Knight Returns (animation)

Saw the first part of “The Dark Knight Returns” animation movie. It was excellent. Way better than the comic. The story is similar or the comic but better presented. It made a lot more sense and I liked the way it was taken. The direction, dialogues, background music, and so on. The first part ends well too – with the Joker awaking from his catatonic state. Yum!

Thira

The other day I saw “Thira”, a decent Malayalam movie. “Thira”, which means “search”, is Vineeth Sreenivasan’s third directorial venture. And like all his past ventures public opinion of the movie seems to be positive but I didn’t like it much.

“Thira” is a thriller. It’s well taken too, but I didn’t like it too much. The movie didn’t hold my interest much, maybe because I am used to Hollywood movies that are way more intense, or maybe it’s a fault of the story/ screenplay/ direction – I don’t know! This is also why I am vague in my opinions of the movie. For some reason I have a voice in my head wondering whether I am being too critical of the movie. Part of me says it is good to be critical – and if I expect a movie to be up to Hollywood standards (in terms of story and screenplay, not special effects or any high budget/ tech items mind you) then it is fine as that’s a good standard to aspire too. Similarly if I expect better from a director like Vineeth Sreenivasan, that too is fine because I think he is a smart fellow and so it is reasonable to expect high of him.

My main complaints with “Thira”, apart from not having a tension for the story, is that it was too easy. Problems were presented but these were overcome with ease. If it had been only about the hero (Vineeth’s brother, I forget his name) and Shobana trying to find the kidnapped girls without any help and purely on their wits I could get it. But in this case there were too many things making it easy for them – after the hero’s sister is kidnapped the vehicle very conveniently has an accident because of his which he is able to start tracking them down; Shobana and the hero are very conveniently brought together (instead of being killed) and I am still not sure how the villains came to know of them being where they were; the snitch in Shobana’s house was very easily exposed at a critical juncture by his own doing; the climax scenes where they track down the girls to a place in Goa and then free them are all too easily done… Basically I didn’t feel any suspense or tension with what was happening, I didn’t care much.

Shobana’s performance too, I felt wasn’t as nuanced as it could be. Too many angry stares and scowls, as if she was asked to focus on her Nagavali character expressions from “Manichitrathazhu”. Even when her children were kidnapped and she had no clue what to do, she has a scowl rather than sadness or fear.

Another thing I noted was the background music. I felt it wasn’t racy enough to match the situation. It was good in some parts – suspenseful – but in many parts it seemed to have a mind of its own without a care for the circumstance. The songs too were fine, nothing noteworthy and I have already forgotten them.

Overall I’d say “Thira” is worth a watch just that I didn’t enjoy it too much. It is a good movie, better than most Malayalam thrillers, but I expected more.

Dhoom 3, as it is …

This is a repost of something I wrote on my Google+ timeline a few days ago. Since I use this blog for such posts now I thought it would be a good idea to repost it here. The content is slightly edited from the original. When you read your own article a few weeks later there’s always things that could be written better…

So here’s the story of Dhoom3 as I see it. Contains spoilers so don’t read ahead if you haven’t seen the movie yet! The movie’s doing great but I was disappointed at how silly the plot was and the only reason it will do great is because it’s part of the Dhoom franchise and has Aamir Khan in it.

The movie begins with Jackie Shroff, owner of “The Great Indian Circus”. The circus is being shut down by a bank because it isn’t doing well enough to repay the bank loans. Nothing personal there. The circus does suck. And as the bank manager rightly points out they are not making money and there are no animals or clowns or similar “circusy” things in the show – just a dance and one magic trick, so it is kind of lame.

Mr. Shroff has two kids. Identical twins. Aamir Khan. One’s normal the other’s slightly retarded in that he stammers and has a neck twitch. Apparently Papa Shroff thought that was bad and to “protect” his stammering kid he hides him from the world. So as far as the world’s concerned he has just one kid, the other’s a secret. (Which is crazy if you think about it. What was the grand plan here? Keep the stammering kid hidden all his life? That’s cruel!) He does put the secret kid to use though in this one magic trick – where the stammering kid is put into a box and “disappears” while the other kid comes up from the far end of the auditorium, thus wow-ing everybody with the magic!

Anyhow, in addition to being a dick and hiding his second child, he also commits suicide when the bank decides to close his circus. Which, if you think about it is again screwed up! There are so many things he could have done – run away with his kids, let the bank take away all his possessions, come up with better tricks to improve the circus … but no, he figures enough is enough and commits suicide. And not just in private, mind you, but in front of his two kids – scarring them for the rest of their life! This does beg the question – what was Papa Shroff thinking!? If he dies how will the kids look after themselves? It’s bad enough if it were one Aamir, but here we have two – one of who is “weak” and must be protected – so how will they fend for themselves?! He was simply being selfish!

Flash forward some 20 years and we have Aamir robbing from various branches of the aforementioned bank. We are not given much insight on how he robs – is probably pretty easy and straightforward. He is a dumb enough robber though in that he doesn’t wear a mask so anyone can easily identify him. Moreover he robs in broad daylight and his escape plan is to ride out in a bike. The cops in the city are dumber than him in that they are unable to use the bank or traffic CCTVs to identify him, or even use eye-witnesses accounts to make a sketch of the robber. They are also unable to catch or shoot him him during pursuit – it’s all just too much for them. (In fact, Aamir’s intro scene has his riding down the side of a bank – vertically! – on his bike, with the stolen money flying all around him, and once he reaches the ground he takes a minute to supervise the scene and show his face to everyone. Yet the police are unable to get a picture of him!)

As if not hiding his face wasn’t making things easy enough, Aamir also leaves a joker mask behind and for no particular reason writes an abuse for bankers in Hindi. Yes, in Hindi, coz of course all American bankers know Hindi, and if it’s a thief who writes in Hindi then it definitely requires Indian cops. And since there are no American Indian cops we definitely need to get Jai & Veeru from India.

Jai & Veeru don’t have much of a role in this movie as it’s an Aamir Khan vehicle after all. (And more than Jai his angry stares have a bigger role). In the pecking order of things it would be blasphemy if these two were to apprehend Aamir or even deduce that Aamir is the thief, so to set that right Aamir goes over and shows his face to Jai and then proceeds to rob the bank as usual and make sure Jai knows it is him. He then gets shot by Jai – because only the Indian cop is smart enough to shoot and all – but manages to escape nevertheless through convenient luck. And then when Jai goes to arrest him after the circus, that’s when we the audience realize that Aamir doesn’t have any bullet injuries within him and in fact it was the stammering twin who got shot. (This is also the first time we are made aware of the stammering twin, and since this “twist” is big enough the movie is counting on our brain being overloaded by that and the two topless Aamirs and so counting on our brains not seeing through how absurd the notion is).

Now on to stammering Aamir. Poor thing has been living underground all his life. Coz he is “weak” and must be protected. (Yet he is smart enough to design the robbery plans and also ride a bike and make his escape etc). He hasn’t seen the outside world much except for a Sunday now and then, and that’s the only time he is himself. At all other times he’s either a shadow to the other Aamir or just cooped up in his box. Sad, really.

Enter Katrina. Who doesn’t have any role in this movie except a couple of songs and to grace the movie posters. She is also required because as mentioned before it would be blasphemy if Jai & Veeru were to catch the two Aamirs. If they are caught it must be due to their own doing, and what better way to make two bros fight than introduce a woman. And in this case everything’s set up just right for the two brothers to have a rift – what with one Aamir having no identity of his own and bound to get frustrated sooner or later (that it took 30 years or so is the surprising aspect here!) – so all we need is for one of the brothers (the stammering one obviously) to develop feelings for Katrina thus leading to him wanting an identity of his own and this in turn leading to the two brothers being caught. That bit is arranged for by Jai in disguise. Again, in a no-questions-asked aspect of the story, the stammering Aamir is unable to see through this disguise even though he must be watching TV or must have at least seen him during the chase and such (the guy was up on a helicopter for goodness sake, shooting at him!).

The only reason Katrina is in the story is because Aamir decides to re-start “The Great Indian Circus”. If you think about it, there’s no particular reason to re-start the circus. He robs a couple of branches and then decides to start the circus. A smarter thing to do would be to finish with the robbery business then maybe migrate elsewhere and re-start the circus. Better still, take a moment or two to think why the circus was a flop in the first place and maybe get some clowns and animals this time around! But no, all that would be too much to expect here, and since the circus is crucial in introducing Katrina and eventually leading to a rift between the brothers, as well as for adding on to the stammering Aamir’s complex (as he is still cooped up in the box while the other bro enjoys the limelight), Aamir has to re-start the circus. As said before, the story is setup to fail. It would be crazy if Aamir were really a baddie who robs banks just for the heck of it – this is Hollywood after all where we have clear demarcation between heroes and villains and so Aamir is not a baddie, just a hero who has his reasons for doing “bad” things. It would also be crazy if he were to get away with it in the end – “bad” guys can’t win after all, God forbid! And since the pecking order won’t allow Jai & Veeru to catch Aamir, the only way out is for the brothers to turn themselves in or just go ahead and kill themselves (as happens here).

And so we have the last bank robbery where for a change both Aamirs are present, and Jai & Veeru try to catch them on bike and obviously fail, and then very conveniently the twins are on a dam and could have escaped but for the fact that Katrina is introduced and so one of them feels bad in leaving her behind … and so the other decides to kill himself, taking all the blame on himself, and then the stammering twin decides he can’t let go of his brother (if only he had thought of that a few moments ago they could have both dumped Katrina and escaped) and so he too jumps into the water with his bro. And so they are shown falling into the water happily, smiling. And of course, being a Hindi movie starring Aamir Khan, it would be sacrilege to kill them too, so all they do is fall into the water and it’s quite possible they are expert swimmers and somehow managed to swim out of the water. That’s left to the imagination of the viewer … the movie has to “kill” them coz evil can’t win over good, but at the same time can’t “kill” them as it’s Aamir Khan after all.

I wonder what will happen with Dhoom 4. You can’t get any bigger super stars as the villain. Maybe get SRK, but that would imply he is better than Aamir and we can’t have that. I’d say get Amitabh Bachchan. He’s the grand-daddy of all anyways and he is comfy playing negative characters. So let him be this super villain, and maybe he just dies of old-age so there’s no problems in terms of Bachchan Jr killing Bachchan Sr, or better still let the plot twist be that Bachchan Sr is actually Jai’s father! “Jai, I am your Father!” Problem solved.

It’s sad when movies that are so full of plot holes and outright silly still manage to be a success because of their star power and effects. It only encourages this sort of a behavior from the producers and actors. The twist & crux of this story – twins playing the role of one – is from “The Prestige”. But it was way sensible there in that both twins were alternatively playing the single character. No craziness like this – where one was kept hidden and had no life at all! Silly. 

I don’t know what’s more sad. The movie, or the fact that it’s a super hit.

Sherlock Season 3 – Episode 3

Of course, as expected Episode 3 was brilliant. Couldn’t have it any other way, the writers are on a roll this season!

I think the best thing about this season is that it these episodes aren’t Sherlock stories, rather they are stories about Sherlock. The focus isn’t on mysteries – the mysteries are there (and sometimes not), but what really matters is the character of Sherlock. For instance there’s this amazing sequence in Episode 3 when Sherlock gets shot – and there’s a whirlwind of events happening in a span of few minutes which go deeper into Sherlock the person. His childhood, his friendship with Watson, his dog, his brother … and so on. Even the events unfolding after the shooting aren’t treated like a mystery. There’s a touch of humanness to them. Mary is not really Mary, and on surface it looks like she shot Sherlock – but did she really? That part is written beautifully with Sherlock correctly deducing how she saved him and why she couldn’t kill Magnusson as that would only incriminate her husband.

There’s no mystery in this episode either. It is simply about Sherlock, Watson, Mary and the threat they face from Magnusson. The latter doesn’t have much screen presence until the end, where his strength (and weakness too!) of having a mind palace is revealed and quickly dealt with.

I don’t think Moriarty will be making a return. The “missed me?” commercials hint that Moriarty could return, but I don’t think so. I think they are a ploy by Sherlock or his brother to give England a reason to pardon Sherlock and acquit him of the murder. Again, excellent stuff! The writers simultaneously play with the viewers and also find a way to absolve Sherlock. Brilliant!

And now the long wait for Season 4 starts. Hope it continues well like this.

p.s. Also, since Anderson seems to be normal and not a crazy as hinted towards the end of Episode 1 when Sherlock supposedly explained how he escaped, I think this adds to my hypothesis that that explanation too was just a theory.

Superman: Earth One

Today I read “Superman Earth One”. Another amazing comic! I am thankful for Amazon’s offer last month of comics for US$5.99 or less. I managed to buy many comics through that and am enjoying them.

“Superman Earth One” is what “Man of Steel” should have been. I didn’t enjoy “Man of Steel” much. At that time I attributed the dislike to maybe me having high expectations from it or wishing something along the lines of a “The Dark Knight” and so I kept my opinions to myself and decided to see how the story develops in the sequels. (Which I am doubtful about now, by the way, because if the studio is confident about the movie and story then why are they introducing characters like Batman and Wonder Woman? Sure these are rumored to be not central to the movie, but still they are a sure shot way of working up frenzy for the movie and I don’t see why a studio that’s confident about its product needs to do that).

The artwork in “Superman Earth One” is excellent. The coloring eye catching, and the story sufficiently dark and broody and grounded. I loved it! “Man of Steel” had a lot of things I didn’t like. Amy Adams as Lois Lane didn’t feel right, the way she uncovered Superman was contrived as was her being used as a hostage, the subplot of Jor-El being in the space ship and also his suit being provided from there just didn’t feel natural, Clark’s father not wanting him to expose his identity made sense but it was obviously harming the boys’ self confidence and that wasn’t addressed satisfactorily, and so on. But “Superman Earth One” takes  sensible route with all this. Sure, his father tells Clark not to expose his identity, but he isn’t so morose or harmful to the boy’s confidence with it. The spaceship is present, but no Jor-El. The Superman suit was made by his mother and she went on to explain why the colors are thus (apart from her not having a choice) and also why Superman doesn’t need a mask. Tyrell discovers during his search for Superman that other suns gave them both power and that Kryptonian sunlight (real or artificial) is a weakness for them. Tyrell is also smart enough to build his spaceship using material from his home planet, making it unbreakable for Superman. I could go on and on… heck, even Perry White is so much better in the comic and has depth to it!

Apart from the comic the interview piece at the end added more depth to the story. That was Superman’s chance to speak to the readers and public and he uses it to clarify how he didn’t know of the intruders and more importantly how he works for humanity and NOT any Government. That was brilliant! That was one aspect of Superman I used to hate – how he was reduced to be an agent of the US (something which Batman in “The Dark Knight Returns” too points out) and it was good to see the writers address it head on here.

A great re-imagining of an iconic character! Simply superb and one which will appeal to all geeks and comic fans.

Drishyam: A must watch!

Today I saw “Drishyam” an amazing Malayalam movie that’s awesome on so many levels. Not only did the movie have a smartly executed story, it was also philosophically grounded in that it touched upon questions of right and wrong with such straightforwardness and simpleness.

I went to watch the movie thinking it’s a murder mystery, but it is not. At least not in the traditional sense. Sure there’s a murder, but then focus here is on how the hero gets away with it.

The story is about the character played by Mohanlal, an orphan who has made it on his own. He is a 4th standard fail – so not someone you would expect to be smart in the traditional sense – but that’s not the case with this fellow. He is street smart, has a well developed sense of morality and right and wrong, and seems to enjoy what he is doing and believes in fairness and good service. He is a loving husband (wife played by Meena, a pleasure to see her after a long time and she was great in this role!) and a doting father to his two daughters.

The first half of the movie is about Mohanlal’s little family and their life in the village/ town where the movie is set. At the end of the first half certain events conspire leading to the wife and elder daughter killing someone. They didn’t intend on killing him, and the victim was a jerk who wanted to sleep with the daughter through blackmail, so there’s no need to be queasy about him getting killed. Question is, though, how do you avoid getting caught? And that’s what the second half is about.

Mohanlal comes up with an alibi and gets his family to stick with the alibi. His point being that no one knows what happened to the victim so it’s purely a question of their story versus the police. And the family goes to great lengths to provide proof for the alibi – which is what the title “drishyam” refers to (“drishyam” loosely translates to “sights” or “what you see”). Meanwhile the cops – who have a vested interest in the case try to break the alibi through hook and crook and a lot of illegal means. They are on the right track, but the family sticks together and so they are unable to break the case. Eventually resort to illegal torture and are finally exposed in a well planned turn of events – very well planned in fact, and in a convincing way too, nothing “filmy” about it.

Eventually the family does get away with the murder. Which is very unlike most Indian movies as these tend to be moralistically upright and so the hero killer is always eventually caught or just surrenders, but not so in this case. The movie is firm on its moral grounds and justifies its stand. Right and wrong are not absolutes, they are relative and depend upon context and situation and there is nothing to feel uncomfortable about standing for your “right” even though it may not be another person’s “wrong” or even simply “wrong” in society’s eyes. I loved the balls in this stand, it’s commendable!

There’s a final trick revealed at the very end too. Again, an excellent sleight of hand!

One aspect of Mohanlal’s character reminded me a lot about myself. As it’s driven home now and then he is movie buff and a lot of things he learnt in life is via watching movies. I am like that. I immerse myself in movies and it amazes me at times how characters in certain movies are so dumb in terms of what they do (like hiding a murder) because if they were any sort of a movie watcher they should know how to handle the basics and be prepared for things. This movie is a meta-movie that does that. All of Mohanlal’s planning are based on what he learnt from watching other murder mysteries and that’s what he uses to train his family and be a step ahead of the cops. On top of that, the movie pays homage to the concept of movies and visuals when it comes to creating evidence for their alibis and getting away with the crime.

My only gripe about the movie is the long torture scene towards the climax. That was well taken and necessary but also heart wrenching. The director and actors build up the tension so well in those scenes, and especially the camera when it focuses on the cop who is about the beat up the youngest child in the way. Just excellent! Heart wrenching and scary, but excellent!

“Drishyam” – aka “How to commit a murder and get away with it”!

Sherlock Season 3 – Episodes 1 & 2

Sherlock’s Season 3 is turning out to be a treat to watch.

The first episode was great as expected. Which is natural because everyone’s curious on how Sherlock survived and the creators better come up with a good explanation. But the beauty of the episode, in my opinion, was how they toyed with the theories. The episode showed enactments of multiple fan theories teasing us that this might be the answer and then pulling the covers off to show that it’s only a theory. In fact I am still not sure whether the final theory shown (to Anderson, with the squash ball) is the real explanation or just another theory.

Anyways, as Watson put it well it doesn’t really matter how he survived – umm, though it does to us curious viewers! – what really matters is that Sherlock is alive.

I found the case in the first episode weak. It was interesting in terms of the wordplay – “underground” network really meaning the “Underground” railway network, and “empty hearse” referring to not just Sherlock’s hearse (as in the book) but also the missing carriage which had the bomb in it. Good one!

Speaking of bombs though do they come with kill switches? I thought that was a bit cheeky and convenient – placing an off/on switch in the bomb. I would have understood putting an off switch which requires you to enter a code, but something as plain and simple as the switch in the story seemed a bit like the writers we’re pulling a fast one on us. Anyways, I wasn’t paying much interest to the case in this episode. Sherlock’s return was the big thing, along with Watson’s reaction and the introduction of Mary and the general effect upon everyone on seeing Sherlock again. The scenes were Sherlock meets Watson for the first time again were well taken – from the French waiter impersonation to the tussles the two had, as well as the ongoing theme that nearly everyone “important” to Sherlock (such as his brother and parents) seemed to know he was alive but Watson didn’t.

Overall, a good episode though perhaps a bit cheeky in not letting us on with regards to how Sherlock really survived! And the episode ends with a hint of the new villain – ooh, yummy!

The second episode, aired yesterday, was simply brilliant. I saw it today, a few moments ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well written – genius in fact, the dialogues and plot and the disparate cases that all tie together in the end – and was amazingly captured with the camera and special effects sprinkled through out the episode. Lots of excellent wordplay and smart dialogues that say one thing but mean another and in the end lead to something else altogether. Sherlock’s wedding toast speech was beautifully written – along with his non-human way of delivering something that was absolutely touching and yet he not realising how wonderful it was or why everyone was in tears! The speech also interweaves the multiple murder mysteries into it and twines them all together to produce the grand mystery which Sherlock obviously uncovers and in the process solves the other mysteries as well.

I am not sure how the “invisible knife” murder would work in practice – I can see the victims won’t bleed until the belt is removed, but won’t they feel any pain and thus be aware of being stabbed? – but that’s just a small thing compared to the amazement I had with everything else.

And just when you think that everything’s done and that the title “sign of three” possibly refers to the three cases, we are told that nope it in fact refers to Mary being pregnant and so alludes to the signs that the family is going to be three. Bravo!

Can’t wait for the next episode. It’s going to be sad though, when that episode ends on a cliffhanger like in the past two seasons and we have to wait another year just to see Sherlock and Watson again!

Speaking of Watson, that’s another brilliant thing about this episode. It puts a focus on Watson and how he too is an important member of the team – not just someone to contrast Sherlock with (which quite smartly Sherlock himself says and then turns around to deliver the real message), but someone who complements Sherlock and balances him. You need both Sherlock and Watson for the team to be like it is. The show might be called “Sherlock” and be all about Sherlock, but Watson is equally important and can’t be replaced with anyone else.

Speaking of replacing Watson, last episode gave a glimpse of how things would be if Sherlock were working with Molly instead. It isn’t quite the same…

Molly seems to have more screen presence these two episodes. Not too much, but she is there and the camera focuses on her now and then to show she still cares for Sherlock and while she may have moved on she nevertheless has an eye on Sherlock. Which is good. We don’t know how things will unfold so it’s good to know Sherlock has someone if need be.